Publisher: Inside Up Games
Player Count: 1-4 Players
Dedicated Solo mode: Yes
Game Length: 20-40 Minutes
Exploring a hidden temple… unlocking secret mysteries… competitive archaeology? Sign me up! In this unique, 3-D polyomino building puzzle game, players will take on the role of archaeologists following key scripts previously lost to time. Restructuring the temple’s blocks to activate the scripts just might hold the key to unlocking the secrets of the temple.
Block and Key is an easy-to-learn, family friendly game where scoring depends on each player’s unique perspective in relation to the game’s multi-tiered board. While not a dexterity game, it is dexterous as players will use 3-D blocks to build and form patterns, scoring and earning new challenges. We’ll break down the game’s key points and see if it’s right for you.
ON YOUR TURN
Block and Key carries a decent amount of backstory and theme, but it’s a relatively simple game. Players will be drafting key cards that feature certain patterns and then using 3-D, polyomino blocks to form those patterns.
Block and Key does bring a unique presentation that requires players to engage the game in a special way. The game board really isn’t a game board, but a game cube. This multi-tiered, square shaped board has 2 levels. Each player faces their own side of the cube and will only score from their perspective. Throughout the game players will draw key cards and blocks from the lower tier and use those blocks to build out the patterns on the key cards on the upper tier.
On a given turn players will only have 2 choices: Place a block or draft new blocks… It’s really that simple. Blocks sit in a 3×3 box grid and you’ll have the opportunity to draft 3 in any specific column or row. When you’ve achieved a certain key card pattern, you score that card and draw a new key card. Key cards are divided in 3 categories representing their difficulty.
It’s in the game’s unique presentation where things get interesting. Since you’re placing blocks in a 3-D environment, each placed block will potentially have implications for both you and every player at the table. There are some limitations to how you can place blocks and this is where the game’s depth really kicks in. Blocks can either be placed corner to corner with an existing block or stacked, but stacking will require you to play a block that sits higher than the block it touches. Did I mention the blocks are all in 4 distinct colors? Each pattern also dictates the block color as well as the pattern to achieve the goal.
There are unique end game bonuses, but it’s ultimately a race to the finish to complete a certain number of key cards—once that’s met, the game ends.
PROS & CONS
➕ Simple ruleset
➕ Accessible and easy to teach
➕ Unique game presentation
➕ Fun, tactile nature
➕ Beautiful artwork
➕ 3-D blocks feel really cool
➕ Think-y gameplay
➖ Think-y games can lead to over-thinking and more downtime between turns
WHY WOULD YOU LIKE THIS GAME?
This is great for someone looking for a unique game experience that’s light on rules. The multi-tiered game board is going to be new for most players and the production and tactile nature of the gameplay are going to draw gateway gamers in.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS GAME?
The best thing about the game is the interactive nature of the game. Scoring your patterns is exclusive to your perspective of the board so it really requires you to get down to the board’s level and plan out your moves.
My first thought when I opened Block and Key was how are we going to build a giant block-shaped game board out of this thin box. The developers did an amazing job with the packaging as the box literally transforms into this sturdy, multi-tiered gaming space. The 3-D blocks are decent-sized and feel heavy… and it all fits in this thin box! I love it.
There is a lot of theme baked into the artwork, components and rulebook. You’re searching through an abandoned temple and the mechanics do their best to emulate that during gameplay. The artwork gives you that Indiana Jones feel and the texture on the blocks really engages you. I say all this because the production goes a long way to invite you into this world.
This is a relatively simple game that’s easy to jump into. On your turn, you either play or draw blocks. The challenge exists in building out the patterns found on your key cards. There are a number of minor rules that complicate this process in the best way. Limiting how you can play blocks really forces you to think through your choices. All the while your opponents are playing on the same 3-D plain and that has the potential to alter your best laid plans. This game sits in that “easy-to-play-hard-to-master” space that works for a variety of gamers.
The only negative I see is turn time has the potential to bog down the flow of the game. The changing environment of the board will often force you to alter your plans without notice. As you attempt to maximize your turns and achieve more complex patterns, this can be frustrating and really force you to rethink your choices. As more blocks are placed on the board, more placement options open up and some players are going to want to explore ALL their choices.
That being said, Key and Block plays fairly quick and smooth. I really enjoyed exploring the 3-D environment to build out patterns. Block colors can exist on multiple plains, but if they form your pattern from your perspective you’re golden! The game is easy to teach and quick to set up, yet the production is really eye-catching. This is the type of game you break out to impress friends who aren’t deep into the board game hobby. The game even works well for younger kids and the interactive nature is sure to keep them engaged. Overall, I was highly impressed with Block and Key. The production is super creative and it brings a neat, unique experience that works well for its intended audience.